Family · Uncategorized

Blue Skinks

Well hello to this fine Friday!

It finds me at my desk, but SHOCKER – my floor heater isn’t on! Today is a sunny day and rather unseasonably warm for mid-November. I’ll take it after the unseasonably cold last few weeks. I was almost a meteorologist, so I understand weather… but question the term “unseasonably.” And the meteorology story is saved for another day.

Back to my title – Blue Skinks. This is a bit deceiving because blue skinks are native only to an Australian island, but the truth is we have a lot of  Great Plains Skinks around our house (outside). The juveniles have blue tails. These tails also come off if you try to grab one. My kids love this!

I grew up catching skinks in the Blue Hills north of my family’s farm. Harmless creatures. As kids, we took two home and they lived in the old cellar for years – Skink and Skank. Yes, I lived a colorful childhood…

great plains skink juvenileWe’ve seen them scuttling around in the summer, sunning themselves on rocks or our sidewalk. They feed on arthropods – insects and spiders. Anything that knocks down the spider population is fine by me.

great plains skink

A few weeks ago, we took on a family-based project (read: husband driving the heavy equipment, kids and I picking up and hauling stuff around by hand and with a wheel barrow). We ripped the old, concrete steps off our house. After 50+ years of salt, the concrete was literally crumbling. You could stick your hand inside the cinder block base — although I wouldn’t based on the number of snake skins we found. The rails had been removed almost 10 years ago because they were unsafe. It was TIME.

As reluctant as I am to start another any house project, this one was necessary. Our widower neighbor to the south, Ron, needs railings to get up the three steps to our house. He comes over for holidays and just the general invite. Other neighbors need railings too. We are a welcoming house for tea, cookies, dinner or the non-food related visit.

house projectYesterday, a crew came by to start the rebuild. If you didn’t know, stamped and stained concrete is a more budget friendly option than building a deck (wood or composite).

The crew started by repairing the termite damage under the door. We are crossing our fingers that this is truly the last termite damage those beastly little *insert expletive-laced rant* creatures did. All of that happened three generations before we acquired the family-built house. We’ve repaired and replaced all sorts of things like subfloor, joists, and sheet rock. Those little buggers will eat the paper off the sheetrock!!!

They began to excavate to pour footings and found two things: a hidden underground electrical conduit and a big ball of hibernating skinks.

Skinks – super cool! The crew said that was a first! They relocated them to my flower bed to the south. Good thing it was “unseasonably” warm yesterday! The skinks had scattered by the time I got home from work. Local forecasts show a few more days of warmer weather before a possible snow. I’m hoping they will all find a new place to ball up and hibernate!

Electrical conduit – not so cool… Add an electrician to the mix so we could have electricity by the evening. We also learned that we will need to replace said conduit due to age and the breakdown of the old insulation.

Man, I love house projects (insert a smidge of snark)…. Honestly, I’ve appreciated the endgame of all 12 years of house projects, but even HGTV’s Nicole Curtis needs a break every now and then, doesn’t she???

Enjoy the weekend & Happy Thanksgiving wishes to all this next week!

 

 

Faith · Parenting · Perspective · Uncategorized

Christmas List – Oh wait! It’s only November….

This morning during a lull at work, I typed up an email with a Christmas list for my kids and sent it off to my sisters’ and parent’s email addresses. My kids won’t end up with every item on the list. (THANK GOODNESS!) These are just ideas.

Last weekend, my girlfriends and I were discussing Christmas lists and how/if/why you give or don’t give gifts for kids. We were all of the consensus that we are flooded under with toys. Three quarters of our group never buys the “Christmas toys of the year” as they are so ridiculously hyped. I looked at the top 12 “must haves” for this year and didn’t see a single one that even slightly piqued my interest.

Let’s be honest – Gremlin (80’s) to Furby (90’s) to Hatchimal (now). Seeing any resemblance???

 

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Half of us ask those who are planning to give gifts to do one toy and then contribute to the future educational fund. I might be the only one who doesn’t do a “Santa gift…” but my 7 year old asked if Santa was real a few years ago and I broke it down for him – history of the holiday and the real spirit of giving freely and generously that we should all have.

Call me the Grinch? What can I say? I told him I’d always tell him the truth. I did ask him to keep that information to himself so that other kids (sister included) could ask when he/she is ready.

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Without further adieu – the Christmas list:

S kids for Christmas

From mom and dad – bikes and lap desks, new family board game


T would like some sort of mp3 player (hand-held music that he can download songs and plug into his radio/speaker that mom and dad got him. Will need bluetooth or ability to attach cord)

new bike helmet – not child sized, but probably adult small? 
more cows for his toy farm, Schlaag size (the ones at Orschelns)
Grain truck for his toy farm
Contigo, Camelbak or similar short flip top water bottle
Tall sports socks – size medium big boys
bath color tablets
Circuit snaps or Simple Robotics kits

M would like barbie clothes, doll clothes, a new stroller for her dolls (she has totaled two… the babies get hauled around our house a lot!)
lip gloss
Melissa and Doug pizza kit
underoos
Contigo, Camelbak or similar short flip top water bottle
Kelsea Ballerini CD — any of them
bath paints – Crayola. we had another brand that left hives on the kids soooo, I know Crayola doesn’t
bath color tablets
Fancy Nancy books- we have fancy classroom, fancy day, and fancy cupcakes
stick on earrings

Please no fidget spinners, Shopkins, Num Nums, or Tsum Tsums. OUTLAWED in our house.

If you have never heard of Snap Circuits, let me introduce you. These are fantastically designed for the child that loves to create and spends hours working on Lego creations. Only these come with a twist – electricity via a couple AA batteries. Can be done independently or with a friend or adult!
Both my children have outgrown their bikes. The seats are adjusted all the way up. They ride all year round when the weather permits it. Miles and miles of bike riding within a few miles of our home!
If you noticed, we tend to mix in things that they need such as special socks (not just your standard white or black), new packages of underwear, sometimes a new character based toothbrush, and a new water bottle. Our school encourages kids to bring their own water bottles to keep in the classroom, thus ours are used all twelve months of the year and at least 5 days a week.
Who doesn’t love bath paints, bath color drops, and stick on earrings as little throw in items or stocking stuffers?
stick on earrings
We also like to shop for others both in our family and community. This is our first year to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. The kids are excited to do this! I’ve gathered suggestions from our friends for the ages that we are packing for. Looks like we will likely be putting in a water bottle, wash cloth, crayons, stickers, toy car – boy, hair pretties or a jump rope – girl, little bars of soap, and …. What are you favorite things to pack in an OCC shoebox?
What’s on the Christmas lists at your house? Do you celebrate Christmas or give gifts?
Perspective · Uncategorized

Travel Anxiety

Travel anxiety.

Ok I said it. I have travel anxiety.

I always have. I was the kid on the bus quietly praying fervently that we wouldn’t slide off the slick gravel road after a thunderstorm (that did happen fairly frequently). I still grip the door or the Oh S*** handle in the truck when I think we are too close to the white line or are driving on a narrow road. I leave handprints on the armrests on airplanes – the WHOLE flight. Jesus and I get in some serious talks in the air.

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My face when the plane takes off.

Friday, my family is traveling to Colorado for my uncle’s memorial service. A 9.5hr trip, we are taking my vehicle. My dad is driving, but he promised that if he gets too tired he’ll turn it over to one of the other five adults in the SUV. We’ve had time to process my uncle’s passing, but the sad reason for our trip will run as an undercurrent as we cover the miles.

Just the original family, no husbands or kids on this road trip. It’ll be a throwback to our childhood. I wonder if my mom will limit our Gameboy and Walkman time? Or if Dad will have ThunderDrums to play in the background as we drive across the southwest? I cross my fingers that we won’t have a freak malfunctioning door alarm that sounds every time we hit a bump…

Growing up, my parents prioritized us going on a family trip every year. One year, it was north to Turtleford, Saskatchewan, Canada to see relatives. Frequently it was to Colorado to see cousins, but with a little extra tacked on such as Mesa Verde or the Sand Dunes Natl Park. When money was tight, it was just a couple days travel across south central Nebraska to buy school supplies and stay at a B&B. Memories made everywhere we traveled no matter the destination.

Regardless- the Anxiety. I can’t help but feel that churny feeling in my stomach looking ahead to our car time. My chest is tight thinking about it. Deep breaths…

I love to travel, see new places, learn about their local history, and people watch. That’s the thing. Quite the conundrum. It’s getting started that’s hard.

 

 

Creativity · Perspective · Uncategorized

October

Day #1 of Year 35 started rainy and cool

In October, the turning leaves are works of art

Textures in the prairie grass make the roadsides a patchwork quilt

Soulful music serenades my day at the office

A bouquet of deep oranges, rich reds and carmelized yellows adorns my desk

Another trip around the sun

I am grateful. ❤

birthday bouquet (2)

 

Perspective · Uncategorized

9/11

I remember exactly what I was doing.

I was a freshman in college. Ford Hall Room 208. My bed was lofted. My roommate Angeline’s bed was perpendicular to mine under the loft.

I had Intro to Engineering as my first class that morning.

My alarm clock went off. I didn’t snooze it. That was something we had discussed as “forbidden” after our first week of cohabitating. Actually, Ang (best friend) threatened to “punch you (me) in the face if you don’t stop that snoozing s**t. Don’t set it if you don’t plan on getting up.” (We are real with each other like that.)

She had already left for a 7:30am class across campus.

The sun was shining in our east window thru the blinds. The cinder block walls were painted a cream color. I felt for my glasses. I turned on our dorm room television. I like noise while I get ready.

The first plane had hit the World Trade Center a few minutes earlier. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. The reporters weren’t sure what was going on either. At this point it was just a News Special Report.  I sat with my legs hanging off the loft. Still wrapped up in my turquoise and green comforter.

We have a family friend who I consider an uncle. He’s a pilot. I immediately tried to confirm with family that he wasn’t flying with that airline.

I remember looking at the clock. I had to get dressed for class. The professor took attendance as part of the grade. I checked my email to see if he had cancelled class. I needed to know what was going on in NYC. Surely he would cancel class!

As I was pulling on my pants, the second plane hit. I recall sitting on the floor next to her bed. This wasn’t an accident.

This wasn’t an accident.

This wasn’t an accident.

The news showed things falling from the buildings. Not things – PEOPLE. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends.

I cried, completely stunned by what I was witnessing LIVE on television.

I had to leave for class. I threw my backpack on and hiked across campus to Fiedler Hall. Worthless class. What was going on?

When I returned to my room after class, I learned that two more flights had crashed- into the Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania. I was glued to the news for the remainder of the day.

The bright blue sky was dotted with only white clouds. No jet trails. Just clouds.

The rescue efforts. The fear. Sadness.

But in all this, the nation pulled together. People prayed. We held vigils. We made contact with those around us to comfort, support, and provide kindness.

9/11/2001. I will never forget.

9/11/2001 Timeline.

Jen & Jon (2)
We were young and naïve. Just figuring the world out when 9/11/2001 happened.

 

Perspective · Uncategorized

August 21

Today is Eclipse Day! We will be a little over 98% totality. I look forward to stepping out of the office and checking it out. The last eclipse I was awake/ alive/ aware enough to witness, I remember doing the pinhole method with some cardboard on the sidewalk following strict instruction NOT to look at the sun. Hopefully I get some good footage or pictures!

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Today is the first day of the first full week of school. The kids were DRAGGY this morning. Cross your fingers for us. This will be a long week. We already had a tearful time-in in the littlest one’s bedroom after a complete meltdown because daddy touched and offered to help put the frosting on a toaster strudel. Eeeek…

Today is the day of the month I schedule all online payments at work. The password book and I get reacquainted. I generally end up frustrated, muttering curses at my computer, and change a few passwords as some sites have started requiring frequent changes. Ugh. Cyber security.

Today I sent a bag of cucumbers with my son to give to a teacher at school. I wish there were about half a dozen more people who wanted cucumbers. I pick every 3-4 days and end up with 15 pounds or so at each picking. Most local gardeners have high production this year, so there aren’t a lot of people willing to take a bag. Last week I literally walked down the street offering them to people. The peppers have also picked up. Today I will find a few more recipes to use with jalapenos and garden salsa varieties and hit my mom up for her pickle recipe.

Today I read an article I didn’t agree with. It was a well-written opinion piece. Although I believe the author had some valid points, I thought it only described one side of the coin. It didn’t color outside the lines of her personal stereotypes. It left very little room for compromise to be found or a constructive path forward unless you agreed with her. Instead of making me indignant of my experiences, it broadened my horizon in that I am now aware of a very different belief set than my own. Isn’t that how constructive dialogue begins?

Today is August 21. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

 

Perspective · Uncategorized

The Finger Wag

Does it ever feel like people everywhere around you are wagging their fingers in disapproval?

You talked to who?giphy

You were blatantly, yet gently honest about what?

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You fed your kids that?

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You didn’t post anything about this online?

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You get the picture. Everybody has an opinion about what, this, that, who, when, where, and why.  And bless them, thanks to an online presence, they feel the need to share it. Unfortunately, a lot of people are of the reactively, firm feeling that we must all agree on it on every unique detail as well.

Here is where things get sticky. As in all families – and in this nation we are technically one big family – it is incredibly rare for details to be agreed upon. For pete’s sake, have you ever tried to set a time for a holiday with 40 relatives???

What I am pleading for people to ponder is that we don’t have to do everything loudly and as an instantaneous reaction. Consider this Heineken beer ad titled “Worlds Apart.” It suggests actually sitting down for a civil conversation instead of instant judgement and finger wagging.

I offer this and the survey below as a thought process in approaching almost ALL differences of opinion – even the simple ones like if I caved and bought generic Lucky Charms instead of granola for their yogurt.

Do a little mental survey before typing that comment:
1) Is this worth my energy to disagree and debate?
2) Am I coming at this from a place of seeing the big picture or just my own microcosm?
3) Is my response bitter, hateful, and laced with expletives or factual, respectful, and willing to discuss?
4) Is it possible to seek a compromise? Why or why not?
5) Have I prayed about it?

Monday morning, I was praying about a situation. Specifically, I was asking for peace in my heart over it. As I was praying, it occurred to me clear as day, that maybe I wasn’t supposed to feel peace in this moment? Maybe I was feeling the unease so I could address and work to resolve it. Goodness, that isn’t the easy, comfortable road I was hoping for…

Sometimes thoughtful silence isn’t a blissful moment of ignoring or condoning tough events. Rather, it is part of the process of seeking the best path forward to resolution. An explosive reaction or opinion rarely does anyone well in the long run. So please, stop wagging your finger at me for not joining in the fray.

 

 

**Due to the timing of my post, I’m aware that some may read into this blog entry as being specifically about Charlottesville and/or the state of race relations in the USA. It isn’t. That is feeding into my thoughts, but this is not a direct reflection of that. I am absolutely not condoning or approving in any fashion the behaviors, beliefs or hateful mindset that went into that situation. It was/ is a tragedy. With rare exception, I am not a reactive person. I am processing and trying to understand, other than feeling extreme sadness, nausea, and frustration, how and where to direct my efforts to improve and contribute to our nation healing as a family.**